Ruth Bader Ginsburg has a message for her critics: She is not stepping down anytime soon. In an interview on Thursday, she said, “All I can say is that I am still here and likely to remain for a while.”
Rumors have been circulating about Ginsburg’s retirement due to her age. She turned 81 in March and is the oldest judge on the Supreme Court. She has been treated twice for cancer, but says, “I can’t say that I ignore it, but I have to do what seems to me to be right.” There are no official guidelines when it comes to retirement on the bench. Justice Louis Brandeis retired at age 82. Ginsburg indicated she would like to serve at least that long, but also said she would “take it year by year. I don’t make any predictions about what the future will bring.”
Another reason for speculation about her possible retirement is that President Obama could fill her seat with another liberal judge while he has Democratic control of the Senate. Midterm elections could change that in November. While the President nominates Supreme Court justices, he must seek confirmation from Congress. The current Supreme Court balance of conservatives to liberals is five to four. The split of the court is important because many decisions have been decided by that narrow margin, and Justice Anthony Kennedy is seen as a centrist who will occasionally swing to the liberal side.
The current court session wrapped in June and will not begin again until October, which has further spurred talk of the timing of the justice’s retirement. Despite the session break, Ginsburg remains resolute that she is not stepping down, stating, “I will do this job as long as I can do it full steam. When I feel myself slipping, when I can no longer think as sharply, or write as quickly, that will be the time to leave the court.”
A Brooklyn native, Ginsburg was appointed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton. She has become known on the bench for the brazen legal opinions which earned her the nickname “Notorious R.B.G.,” a spin on the rapper Notorious B.I.G. She admits that she had to ask her law clerks to explain the moniker but that she thinks it is wonderful.
Her most recent feisty opinion came this summer when she wrote the dissent for the 5-4 decision in the Hobby Lobby case. The court’s majority decided that private companies could choose not to provide contraception for employees based on religious views. The Notorious R.B.G. and the other female justices vehemently disagreed, Ginsburg wrote in her dissent that the ruling would “deny legions of women who do not hold their employer’s beliefs access to contraception coverage.”
Ginsburg has maintained a close relationship with the President, even sharing a private lunch. She denies rumors that he was snooping for information about her retirement plans, saying, “So tell me who the President could have nominated this spring that you would rather see on the court than me?” It does not sound like Ginsburg is stepping down from the bench in the foreseeable future.
By Stacey Wagner